Fresh Designs – free design book


In the early 1980s, I assembled a book of quilting designs. That is, they’re guides for stitching on completed quilts.

However, you could use these same designs for many other kinds of art, especially fabric art. And, I included some suggestions on a couple of pages in this book.

For example: For a non-fabric art application, I might use some of these designs as templates to cut random pages from magazine photos, and create a collage.

In felt or fabric, they could be great applique designs.

In the early 1980s, this book was sold in quilting shops throughout the US, Canada, and Australia.

Now, I’ve scanned the pages of this book, and assembled them as a free book for you to download in PDF format.

How you can use this book and its patterns

You can use these patterns for your own original art, even art that you sell.

You can also copy these pages–or the entire book–and distribute it to friends, or even to students in a class that you teach.

You can use these patterns at your own website, or even offer the book as a freebie at your site.


freshdesigns-page2I retain the copyright to this book and its designs. Here are the copyright rules:

You can’t charge for the book or its designs, but it can be a free handout in a class that you teach.

You must be sure that my copyright notice is on any individual pages that you distribute.

Also, don’t pretend that you created this book or its designs.

If you distribute the book–printed or online for printing/download–the last page in the book must be part of it. That’s where the copyright details are.

Please do not link directly to the PDF file at this website. You can link to this page… just not directly to the PDF file itself.

Download as a PDF

freshdesigns-page11smYou can download this book and print it at your computer. It’s in PDF format, which can be read by several programs, including the free Adobe Reader program.

To download your free copy of “Fresh Designs” in PDF format (about 5MB), right-click on this link and choose “Save to Disk.”

(Be sure to remember where you saved it on your hard drive, so that you can print it, later.)

right-click here for Fresh Designs download

(Please do NOT post the PDF link at other websites, forums or lists.)

Rust and Teal Pieced Bodice

This is another project started in the mid-1990s and not completed.  Clearly, even good projects are sometimes put aside.


Basically, I was going to make myself a bunch of great wearable art pinafores.

Note: In the States, a pinafore is called a jumper. I grew up calling them pinafores, because… well, that’s what my family called them.

But, I ran out of enthusiasm when I went through a time of equating pinafores with ‘tasteful floral print dresses’ and tossed out every one of those sewing patterns.

At times, I’m impulsive like that.   (Yes, it’s frustrating at times.)

So, this project was never completed.

Before I ran out of steam, I had strip pieced the front bodice shown above. It’s beaded by hand, and also embellished with some ‘crazy quilt’ stitching.

A lot of my fabric art embellishments have been inspired by the stitches on crazy quilts. I rely on Judith Baker Montano’s book, Elegant Stitches, shown in the right column. I’ve used her fabric art as references ever since I bought a copy of her hand-drawn notes that she’d photocopied to sell at quilt fairs in the 1970s.

I like to mix easy strip piecing with quirky color combinations, crazy quilt stitching, and glass beads… especially bugle beads and small seed beads.

For me, fabric art is about color and texture. The mix of fabrics, stitching and beads is, in my mind, a perfect combination for personal art expression.

Related links:

Judith Baker Montano’s website

    • – Samples of her art, and info about her books & workshops. Also see her crazy quilting instructions from her appearance on HGTV’s Carol Duvall show:

At Home: Jewelry: Crazy Quilting.

Purple Fabric Art Jacket 1

ppljkt25I’ve always loved the color purple.  Almost every shade of purple delights me.

This is an original one-of-a-kind jacket that I created around 1992, using a Vogue designer jacket pattern. The fabrics are all 100% cottons.

On half of the front, I have hand-beaded with glass bugle and seed beads. I’ve also painted it with glitter paint.


On the other half of the jacket, front and back, I’ve made small dolls from crafts clothespins. Each doll is unique, and all of them are a little wild and off-balance.


This is a flashy jacket and — as of this writing — it’s a little 1980s in style.  However, dazzle keeps returning to fashion, so this jacket will be stylish again in the future.

Meanwhile, it’s a great and whimsical display item.

Disney Fabric Art Jacket

disjkt2The fabric art  jacket in the photo at right was made in 1991.

I have always loved everything related to Disneyland and DisneyWorld.

When I was growing up, my mother was a free-lance artist for Walt Disney, and she did all of the artwork for two Disney board games: Fantasyland, and Steps to Toyland.

Particularly when she was working on the Fantasyland game, we would go to Disney animated features repeatedly, while my mother sketched ideas.

I was dazzled. It was wonderful!

When I grew up and married, we lived in Florida for about three years. While there, we visited DisneyWorld about every two weeks and never grew tired of it. In fact, it’s still one of our favorite vacation spots.

Late in the 1980’s, I started collecting Disney fabrics for a “someday” wearable art project. This is the jacket that I made with those fabrics, around 1991.

The sleeves are a Disney calendar fabric, from a year when New Year’s Day was a Friday.

The stars with Mickey in the center are actually from a fabric with a yellow background, so I carefully cut out the stars for this project.

The larger Mickey and Minnie, and their counterparts on the back of the jacket, are all from a panel-type fabric that made a Disney tote bag.

The back of the jacket is trapunto, with Mickey and Minnie in relief.

Most of the fabrics are cotton blends, and I machine pieced them. The appliques were applied by hand, sometimes tacked in place with fusing.

The lining is a 100% cotton fabric in red and white stripes, not a Disney fabric.

I think that I used a Simplicity pattern for the general design of this raglan-sleeved jacket. It has a thin woven-type quilt batting as an interlining in the bodice only (not in the sleeves), for warmth.

It became one of my favorite jackets.  Today,  it’s displayed far more than it’s worn.

To create a similar jacket yourself, choose a very simple clothing pattern.  Look in the “easy to sew” section of the pattern books.  Choose something that can be made in an hour or two.

Then, you can focus on your piecing and embellishments.

(All Disney images are copyright and/or trademarked to the Walt Disney corporation.)

Easy Rolled Cloth Beads

Scraps of fabric can be used to create rolled beads. Here’s the simplest version.

You’ll need fabric, white glue and water, and something thin to wrap the beads around. This can be a thin dowel, toothpicks, shishkebab skewers, thin cocktail straws, or… Well, see what you have around the house. You could even use heavy gauge wire such as a coat hanger.

First, decide if you want to use fabric “as is,” or embellish it. It doesn’t have to be cotton, but cotton absorbs glue most easily.


Dye, stain, paint, and embellish with color and perhaps glitter, if you like.

Then, cut or rip the fabric into thin strips. Remember that 100% cotton tears along straight lines. So, you can cut a small nick at the end, and then tear it from there.

Soak the fabric in a mixture of white glue and water. I’d guess that a 50/50 mix would work. This isn’t precise. You want it thick enough to stick together, but thin enough not to be gloppy.

Roll each bead around whatever you’re using at the center. The purpose of this is just to keep a hole in the middle. You’ll remove the dowel (or wire or toothpicks) when the glue is mostly dry.

(If you wait until the bead is completely dry, it may be permanently adhered to the center support. Removing the center early allows the middle dry faster.)

If you want to prevent the beads from sticking to the center support, coat the support with a non-stick lecithin kitchen spray. However, this can make it harder to roll the beads; the fabric will tend to slip as you’re rolling.

If the beads were saturated with the glue-and-water mix, the torn edges generally won’t unravel.

It’s best to roll the beads to the size that you want. After they’re made, if you want them shorter, it will be necessary to cut them to size with a saw, or the cutting blade on a rotary tool.


An alternative–probably better and more colorful than rolling rectangles–is to cut the fabric into triangles.

Roll the beads so that the widest side is at the center, and the tip of the triangle is on the outside of the bead.

Ribbon Embroidery and Beading

jumpribThis shows part of the ribbon embroidery & beading on a jumper bodice started in the 1990s.

In real life, the area shown is about 7.5″ x 4″.

I was inspired by a crazy quilt that I saw many years ago, and the bright embroidery on the black velvet reminded me of fireworks. I knew that, someday, I’d want to create a similar effect with wearable art.

After I bought the fabric and cut out the bodice, my inspiration was renewed by a vividly colored garden photo that I saw on a magazine cover. (Inspiration is everywhere!)

As I’m simplifying my surroundings, I’d like to intensify what is around me, by using lots of these brilliant colors against black, white, and forest green.

The work you see here is entirely handsewn, with silk ribbon and glass beads on black pinwale corduroy. So far, there’s probably about ten or fifteen hours’ of sewing in it, mostly done in front of the television.

I know that most people will never guess the amount of work in this, but the end result will be dazzling. I think it is, already.

Baby’s Blocks Gone Wild

boxqIn 1991, I designed and made this quilted wallhanging for a challenge in Salt Lake City, Utah.

A “challenge” is kind of competition.  Usually it includes a rule that all participants must follow.  That rule is designed to make the competition more interesting… or difficult.  In many cases, the challenge element is a particular fabric, batting, or other major element.

In this challenge, I had to use a certain fabric, and it had to appear in at least 20% of the finished quilt.

The challenge fabric was the floral that appears in the Baby’s Blocks section, as well as bordering the top and bottom sections (not the actual border, which is black).

I rarely use muted, tasteful florals in my work.  I struggled to find a way to use the challenge fabric.

Weeks passed and the deadline loomed, and nothing about that fabric inspired me.

Then I realized that I could work in contrasts–meek with wild, traditional with jazzy.

The finished wall hanging is 32″x52″, and at the time I called it, “Threads of the Past, Visions of the Future.” It is pieced and appliqued, with some stenciling (the small yellow dots) as a surface treatment.

This quilt took top marks, winning an award for originality and design.

Today I call it, “Baby’s Blocks, Gone Wild” and I’m eager to do more with contemporary twists and traditional designs.

Baby Quilt – Pink and Red

cromquiltThis is a baby quilt that I made in 2003. It’s made with over a dozen fabrics, each 100% cotton.

Each square in the quilt is about 1″ x 1″.

It could be very tedious to make a quilt like this, but the top created with strip piecing.

This is a faster technique that works with strips of fabric, cut after they’re sewn together.

Cutting, sewing, and ironing the top took about six hours, total.

The technique comes from a fabulous book, Strip-Pieced Watercolor Magic: A Faster, New Approach to Creating 30 Watercolor Quilts. The book gives precise directions for selecting fabrics, and how much of each for the 30 projects in the book.

I selected the fabrics using a piece of clear red plastic.

(I bought it years ago. It was designed to help determine light and dark shades without the distraction of colors. I’ve never seen another one of these, but any sheet of clear red plastic or acetate should work fine.)

I modified the design from a pattern for a full-sized bed quilt, to create this small baby quilt for a newborn.

I use blanket-style, needle-punched quilt bats for quilts. They cost a little more, but hold up better in the laundry.

Generally, I tie baby quilts rather than quilting them. Baby quilts are laundered often and the batting starts to fall apart.

With a tied quilt, you can simply undo the yarn or embroidery floss (used to tie it), discard the quilt batting, replace it with a fresh layer, and retie the quilt.

(All of my three children loved my handmade quilts when they were little, and I learned to be practical about this.)

Rocking chair – reseating

rchairThis rocking chair is called a Lincoln rocker by some, and a Kennedy rocker by others. It’s the same design that Jack Kennedy had in the White House. He felt that it helped his back.

The restored chair is shown at right.

This particular chair came from a yard sale on Boston’s North Shore (an area by the ocean, north of Boston) and it cost $60 many years ago when my younger daughter and I found it. She could “see” me rocking in it, and so we brought it home, propped in the trunk of my car, and held in place with nylon camping rope.

rcbThe chair was well-used and well-loved for several years, until — as shown at left — the dry woven seat finally began to sag and then collapse.

I was dismayed, and knew that I wanted to do something wonderful with the chair, and make a present of it to my older daughter. It seemed naturally to belong to her, after awhile. I don’t know why, but certain things are very organic and clearly “belong” to certain people.

When we were in a bookstore in Stratford-upon-Avon (England) in 1996, I saw an inspiring book, Country Rag Crafts, which I bought and shipped back to the States.

The book included instructions for a woven footstool. As soon as I saw the color photos, I knew that was what I wanted to do with the rocking chair… with different colors, of course.

First, I wrapped fabric strips around (and around, and around) 3/8″ sisal rope (“seagrass” in the UK). As I wrapped, I secured the fabric with hot glue.

Then I wove the seat, in a fairly intricate design that gives maximum coverage with minimal bulk. The design starts at the corners and works in.

The entire project took about three days, working about three hours a day. I worked on it while watching favorite old movies.

The fabrics include glittery pieces and plush black velvets, but mostly cottons. One of the fabrics is a blue calico that I used in the first quilt that I made for my older daughter when she was born.

Some of the fabric is part of a seat covering fabric collage, which used to be on the back seat of our art car, called the “Glittermobile.”

There is also a Disney fabric woven in, with a yellow background and Mickey Mouse faces here and there.

These are the things that are a personal “signature” in fabric art, and while I know what they mean (and my family does), they’re our secret when we look at what I have woven.

The rocker is comfortable, and it’s in my older daughter’s home. I’m very pleased with the results. And I hope this chair lasts a long, long time before it needs a new seat again.

Fabric art – where to start?

fabric-green1-illusIf you’re interested in fabric art but don’t know where to start, here are a few basics.

First, decide the kind of fabric art that you’d like to start with.

As time permits, I’ll show you simple projects to “test drive” different forms of fabric art.

For now, here are a few areas to consider:

Cloth dolls and figures

If you’ve always loved dolls, stuffed animals, or art figures, you may enjoy making cloth dolls and figures. You can make them entirely of fabric, or mix different materials, such as a polymer clay face, or wooden chopsticks for legs.

Cloth dolls can be as realistic or stylized as you like. You can make sewing figures or no-sew dolls. Materials can include cloth and stuffing plus needle & thread, or alternative materials.

If you’re a beginner, your doll can be two pieces of fabric sewn, fused, or glued together. If you’re already a fabric artist, the sky’s the limit in terms of materials and techniques.

For a quick view of what others are doing with cloth dolls and mixed media figures, join the Yahoo! Group that I started many years ago, Wild Art Dolls.  Browse through the Files and Photos from its members. You can also ask questions there, and find many helpful tips in the Archives section of that website.

Quilts and wallhangings

Many people start their fabric art careers by making quilts. You can start simply, sewing together squares of fabric.

Or, you can use a commercial pattern–or your own design–for a more unique statement. You can work with traditional designs, or wildly contemporary concepts.

For an overview of your options as a quiltmaker, see these two magazines: Quilters Newsletter magazine, and Quilting Arts magazine.

For mixed media art that includes fabric–a fine way to mix your other favorite techniques and materials with quilting & fabric–see Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine, from the publishers of Quilting Arts.

I started with traditional quilts in the mid-1970s. At first, I hand-pieced baby quilts for my own infants and friends’. As I became more comfortable with quiltmaking, I made larger quilts with my sewing machine.

Next, I learned “quilt in a day” techniques using strip piecing, and modified these designs to make quilts for shops and galleries.

Finally, I started incorporating fine arts and crafts techniques and mixed media approaches to art quilts and wallhangings. That’s what I’m working on again, now.

Cloth jewelry and accessories

Many people enjoy making fabric jewelry, such as cloth beads, bracelets and cuffs, and necklaces. These are a fine starting point for beginners.

Also, you may enjoy making fabric art accessories for your wardrobe and as gifts for others. These can include belts and sashes, purses, hats, and more.

Lois Ericson is one of the most respected voices in fabric art accessories. Her books and patterns allow considerable flexibility for beginners as well as experienced fabric artists.

Your public library probably has at least one of her books, or can order one on inter-library loan. Highly recommended!

Wearable art – clothing

Pieced and/or embellished garments are among the most fabulous and complex fabric art projects. Belle Armoire magazine is very popular among paper and mixed media artists making the transition to wearables.

You can explore even more wearable art ideas in Fiberarts Magazines’ annual Art-to-Wear issue, Surface Design Journal, and other sewing and beading magazines.

Special issues of Threads, Ornament, and Quilters Newsletter magazines also feature wearable art and related topics.

Where to start…?

My best advice is to start with whichever area seems most exciting to you. There are simple and complex approaches to every kind of fabric art.

Pick one and get started today. You’ll soon find a niche whether you’re a beginner or an experienced tailor/designer/artist.

Delve in and have fun!